12.30.2014

The [False] Gospel According to Superheroes: Why We Are Saying NO to Superheroes in Our Home

I've been asked by many friends and family why we are choosing to exclude superheroes from our home. As with anything we choose to consume as a family in our daily lives – television, books, music, social media – we test everything against God's word. Because I understand that our point of view in these matters is very unconventional, frank, and therefore unpopular, I have first gone into more detail about media and God's stance on it, following up by using superheroes as the illustration of this spiritual discipline in practice. I also explain in broader terms the reasons we've chosen to avoid superheroes specifically. 

One of the most important things to keep in mind as you're reading is this: While our family uses God's word as the compass for our lives, NONE OF THE PRACTICES WE PUT INTO PLACE GAIN US SALVATION OR EARN GOD'S FAVOR. This is an application of God's Word, and one other families could benefit from, to be sure. Righteousness and eternal life is earned through faith alone in Christ alone – our salvation rests in Him! He died ONCE and FOR ALL who accept Him as Lord.


As I shared with you in the intro to this guest post, hubby and I made many changes in our lives as we prepared for the arrival of Little Mouse. These changes were not made intentionally in anticipation of his birth, but rather because as we discussed how we planned to raise our new son and prepare him to be a light in the world we live in, we realized that we ourselves were not being the lights we hoped for our children to become.

Now, we read our Bibles more, watch television less, and test everything in which we participate against God's Word. We've come a long way from watching shows and playing games that glorify or treat as “normal” the extremely violent or the occult. But while there are things from which Christians should abstain that are obvious (take Ouija boards, for example), there are many things that we have been convinced by the world are “okay” to take part in or consume without it affecting our spiritual well-being.

Taking the word of God seriously in today's world is seen as “extreme” or “hyper-Christian.” In Christian circles, the term “legalistic” floats around when discussing the things from which we abstain (usually used incorrectly, I might add), or one receives the label of "fundamentalist" in a derogatory manner. Somewhere along the line, Christians have bought the lie that we have to be “relevant” in terms of our lifestyles in order to curry favor with the world. But where's the line? How much are we willing to sacrifice in the name of “relevance”?

Where does
our culture of entertainment stand against God's Word?
In Romans 1:29-32, Paul composes a list of some of the world's sinful practices, then finishes by saying this: “and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.” What Paul is saying here is that, though we may not be actually participating in something that runs counter to God's word, if we approve of it, defend it, take pleasure in it, and do not speak out against it, then in our hearts, we are the same as those actually committing those sins!

This verse is uniquely applicable to the media-focused society in which we live. How many sit in theaters, watching violence, immorality, and deceit, all the while applauding the things they see? 

Romans 1:32 in action means this: It makes no difference that these sins are “make-believe,” the effect is the same: desensitizing the mind of the viewer to the things that God hates.

The study notes in the Full Life Study Bible breaks down this concept similarly:
This disposition is the ultimate in depravity – vicarious enjoyment of lust and evil. Sin becomes entertainment. ...Being entertained by watching other people sin and engage in ungodly actions, even while you yourself abstain, brings you under the same divine condemnation as those engaging in such evil practices. ...Those (and especially those who profess faith in Christ) who use the immoral actions of others for entertainment and enjoyment are directly contributing to public opinion favorable to immorality and therefore to the corruption and eternal damnation of an indefinite number of other people.
But we are supposed to be a light unto the world (Matthew 5:14-16), NOT a stumbling block (1 Corinthians 8-9)! In this way, the Romans 1:32 principle is not only for our own good, but also for the good of everyone outside the fold, to whom we are called to preach the Good News!

Ephesians 5:10-12 echoes the sentiments of Romans 1:32 as well:

...learn what is pleasing to the Lord. Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them; for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret.”
...and continues on in verses 15-17 with this warning:
Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.”


Simply put, the Bible is clear as to how we are to conduct ourselves as Christians, however much we would like to reason otherwise; it has given us everything – literally everything – we need to know about living out our lives. Watching the right movies or reading the right books in a vain effort to prove to the world that Christians somehow “aren't that 'radical' after all” is helping no one. In fact, it's that kind of liberalized thinking that is HURTING the Church now more than ever. We have allowed the hollow arguments of the world tear away at the authority of Scripture, turning both the Bible and God Himself into what we want them to be, instead of the converse; as believers, we are called to conform to the Word and become who God wants us to be! 

Separation from the world's way of living is not intended to constrict us as believers, but rather, to set us free; we are to enjoy the benefits of such separation and receive His rich rewards and guidance in our earthly lives because of our obedience to Him! (2 Corinthians 6:14-18, 7:1) When the first disciples were called by Christ to follow Him, they left everything behind; they pulled in a catch so large that their boats could barely hold the weight, but by God's grace left it all behind to follow Christ and become “fishers of men!” (Luke 5:1-11) 

By God's grace, we can do the same. The question is only this: Are we willing to?

So, why not Superheroes? 
I mean, they're the “good guys,” right? Well, yes...and no.

Superheroes from the DC Universe,
targeted at a younger audience and
featured on a General Mills cereal box.
IT'S ALL RELATIVE
Mostly-Bad Guys vs. Not-as-Bad Guys
More than ever, antagonists undergo a great deal of massaging by authors and script-writers in an effort to create “real” and relatable villains, eliciting sympathy and even admiration from their audience. The effect of this trend is the reduction of the dichotomy of “good” versus “evil.” This is accomplished by giving antagonists a “justifiable” motivation for standing in the protagonist's way - a motivation that most people see and know they can relate to and be seduced by if they were in a similar situation. In literary terms, good antagonists are not foreign or alien to us; this is because they are the reflections of the sin nature inside us all.

Unfortunately, the protagonists haven't escaped the fallout of this transformation. Many of them are given deeply dark pasts and are painted in a very unattractive light, as though they are shadowy figures just enough on the right side of the line to be “good.” And, while it is true that we all have sin, not teaching the true dichotomy of good and evil – that we are either for God or against Him (Matt 12:30) – leads to a slippery slope of moral relativism. 

Iron Man is a womanizer. Spider-Man is a rather compulsive liar. Batman is vengeful. But these traits are not treated as vices; rather, they are justified as a means to an end that serves the greater good. That's the Principle of Utility: the ends justify the means if they promote happiness or pleasure. And the more we entertain the idea of Utilitarianism, the blurrier the Cross becomes. Until one day, we find ourselves wondering if moral absolutism is too constricting or just too “old-fashioned” for today's world. (Not to mention how confusing it must be for children to see their heroes partaking in the very activities for which they are punished.)

What does God say about moral relativism?
The Holy Spirit has spoken a
standard of right and wrong into our hearts that, when followed, results in His blessings (Romans 2:14-15). But our conscience is clouded by our sinful nature – especially when amplified by the unfruitful things we ingest – which is why we are urged to seek God's wisdom in all matters, instead of the world's or our own (James 1:5).

It boils down to this: God tells us to follow the ideals and absolutes of morality that He has set forth for us, and it is a sin to do otherwise. Period. Black and white. But this is something we could NEVER do! Praise God that Jesus came to live the Law in complete, perfect obedience and die in our place to pay our debt! But, as Paul pointed out: “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be!” (Romans 6:1-2)

"I considered my ways and turned my feet to Your testimonies," (Psalm 119:59) and when we consider our fallen disposition, our own helplessness and need for God is made clear: "If Your law had not been my delight, then I would have perished in my affliction" (Psalm 119:92). While the law does not earn us righteousness or salvation, following the law and living as though “dead to sin” and “alive in Christ” (Romans 6) protects us from earthly harm and negative influences that can hurt both our spiritual growth as well as our witness (Romans 8:13).
 ______________________

ARE THESE REALLY THE ROLE MODELS WE WANT FOR OUR KIDS, ANYWAY?
______________________

The reasons we've decided to exclude superheroes from our house aren't all directly Biblical; while ultimately our rationale has its foundations in Biblical Christianity, there are some aspects of our reasoning that I think are pretty universal.

Consider this: Playtime is the occupation of children. Kids learn through play, and emotionally relate very closely to the things with which they play. Television is 100% entertainment for children, and they learn very effectively through this type of visual stimulation. Because they cannot discern the values being promoted by television shows as being “good” or “bad,” they are simply absorbing the principles and morals being taught to them by the characters they have learned to love; aside from our restraints and guidance, they are prey to whatever ethics are being fed to them.


So the question, then, is this: Just what ARE these beloved characters (superheroes, in this case), teaching our children? 

1) The ends justify the means. 
The rules are a formality, and they can be waved aside for the sake of the greater good. That is NOT a an attitude I would like promoted in my household. 

2) Humanist values (piggybacking off of #1) 
Humanism promotes HUMAN reason while specifically rejecting any sort of religion as the basis of morality and decision making. This type of “situational morality” promotes the idea that it is okay to do “wrong” if the outcome is beneficial to you. Stealing, cheating, and lying, for example, are completely acceptable if done for the “right” reasons. 

3) The justification of revenge. 
Batman is one of the bigger offenders in this category, but a spirit of vengeance can be found from Spider-Man to Iron Man and almost everyone in-between. 

4) Glorification of violence. 
If play is the occupation of children, and learning is done through play, why would I want to expose my children to entertainment that will foster ideas for violent play? And it's not just one or two scenes you can fast-forward through, either – epic battles are at the crux of all superhero storylines, making for constant violence and associated violent games. Introducing children to the sort of violence glorified in today's superhero programming creates and nourishes an environment for violent play, and potentially violent patterns in the future.* (see footnote)

 5) Increasingly adult themes.
While it is true that the writers of most kids' cartoons give subtle nods to the parents enduring such programming with their children, modern-day superhero flicks have truly no shame. In the feature films, which have seen attendees as young as 4, the abundant use of drugs and alcohol is touched on without even the bat of an eyelash. For example, when Iron Man investigates the fake Mandarin's den in Iron Man 3, he falls upon an actor in a drug and alcohol-fueled stupor laying alongside two prostitutes. Unfortunately, this isn't exclusive of films with a PG-13 rating; one may witness the over-sexualization of female characters in cartoons and feature films alike.

Picture of Wonder Woman featured on a General Mills cereal box.
Additionally, some of the more complex and “mature” moral quandaries we find our protagonists in are resolved through violence or breaking the rules for all the “right” reasons (as covered in numbers 1 & 2).

______________________

BACK TO BASICS
______________________
These are the two questions our family asks when considering 
any entertainment we may potentially consume:

(1) Is it glorifying to God or is it at the very least morally and spiritually neutral?

(2) Does it produce the Fruits of the Spirit found in Galatians 5:22-23?
(But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.)

Concerning the first question, we have found mountains of evidence that superheroes and their respective media are neither glorifying to God nor morally neutral.
"Fun Facts" on the side of a General Mills
cereal box, including information about
the source of The Flash's superspeed.
As covered in the above explanations, not only does superhero programming teach a set of mores conflicting with our own, but also the characters operate in a universe in which other gods truly do exist and humans are given God-like powers. Additionally, other superheroes' abilities have their roots in rather dubious sources. It's not just that the multiple heroes named “The Flash” are super-speedy by their own natural ability – quite the contrary, actually. They tap into the “Speed Force,” an extra-dimensional energy force, in order to gain superspeed. [1]

In the comics, one “Flash,” Bart Allen, could even “commune” with the spirits in the Speed Force through meditation. [2] Furthermore, those who utilize this Speed Force become one with it when they pass on into the afterlife. [2]

Contrastingly, we see in our universe that power comes from one of two places: God or Satan. One of the clearest examples can be found in Exodus, when Pharaoh’s magicians and sorcerers imitated the miracles that God was performing through Moses. God clearly wasn't working through the “magicks” of the occultic, pantheistic magicians of Egypt's leader, so that leaves us with one obvious conclusion: they were performing “counterfeit miracles” using demonic devices as the source of their power in order to undermine and mock God by mimicking His miracles (only so far as God would allow them). [Exodus 7, 8:1-19]

With that in mind, let's revisit the source of Speed Force: “An extra-dimensional energy force” - 'extra-dimensional,' or not of this dimension. Superheroes can “commune” with the spirits – SPIRITS – within this Speed Force through meditation. Spirits – not God – and meditation – not prayer. Furthermore, when speedsters die, they become one with this extra-dimensional force, presumably becoming one of these spirits with whom new heroes can “commune.”

Putting trust in objects - a ring, a bracelet...a
"lucky rabbit's foot" - instead of the One
who is really in control.
I know this all seems to make sense within the realm of the superhero universe, but in our universe, this is clearly Satanic. And while you may think I'm overreacting by condemning something on these grounds, I can give you countless examples of students of my husband's who truly believed that they had used “The Force” to move a potato chip, for example, and believed that they could do it again if they called on “The Force.” But upon whom are these children truly calling? Not God! This is NOT to discount the Holy Spirit's hovering and protection over our kids, but simply to beg the question that if they are going to believe this now, what are we fostering in terms of future appetites? 

Therefore, I submit to you that superheroes are not glorifying to God and are not at all morally or spiritually neutral. 

Concerning the second question, it is clear given the aforementioned reasons, arguments, and dissections that superheroes, their related media, and resulting play generally do not produce the “fruits of the Spirit.”
____________

It is spiritually confusing to children to teach them that God's Word is supreme, and then allow entertainment that is built around the glorification of violence or other forbidden practices.
 ____________

Even for us as adults (as much as we may try to argue otherwise), we CANNOT remain absolutely neutral to the content while being entertained by stories and scripts that are overflowing with unabashed evil. In the world of today's constant modern media bombardment, we tend to sit back and allow our discernment to take a vacation while we find diversion in the entertainment we consume. This is a dangerous path to tread! While we would be cautious to accept false doctrine from teaching, we are open to entertaining ourselves with evil and subjecting ourselves to such false teaching when “it's only a movie.” Consuming media with such morally wrong themes serves only to desensitize us from seeing sin as sin and results in the watering down of God's truth...and the watering down of God's truth is the first step to losing your spiritual bearings. 

This is why we have chosen to refrain from watching superheroes, among many other changes in our entertainment consumption. 

“For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)

There is a way which seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death.” (Proverbs 14:12)
____________

Why have we as a family chosen to purge our lives of that which doesn't point to God?  

The simple answer is this: LOVE. 

God so loved His children – God so loved me, you, ALL OF US – that, while we were still sinners, Christ became sin and died in our place (Romans 5: 8-10 - But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.). Standing on our own righteousness, we deserve nothing but God's wrath, judgment, and eternal punishment; we are so far from holy. But God's love for us is so great that Jesus came to bear the sins of ALL OF CREATION. He hung on a cross for HOURS. He bore the full weight of the judgment of a perfect, pure, and holy God in our place. All this because of LOVE. 

It's difficult to fathom the fullness of that amazing grace, freely given to those who believe Jesus Christ is the Messiah and Savior, of which we are so unbelievably unworthy.

To quote one of my favorite hymns:
"And when I think that God, his Son not sparing,
Sent him to die, I scarce can take it in,
That on the cross, my burden gladly bearing,
He bled and died to take away my sin."
(How Great Thou Art) 

And so, given this amazing gift borne out of God's unyielding love for us, why would we NOT want to walk with Him as closely as possible? What have we to gain by spending our earthly walk justifying worldly actions, instead of living our lives distinctly different from the world, so that our actions constantly point to our Creator in wonder, proclaiming the Good News for all to hear?


WHAT, THEN, MUST WE DO TO BE SAVED?

We are neither saved by works; nor by following God's Law; nor by enlightenment. Salvation encompasses what GOD has already done for US, not what WE can do for God. We have all sinned and cannot save ourselves through any effort of our own (Romans 3:23). Jesus Christ , the Son of God, died in our place on the cross and rose from the grave to forgive our sins (Romans 6:23). Therefore, the answer is as simple as what Paul and Silas told their jailer: “BELIEVE IN THE LORD JESUS...” (Acts 16:31). Simply believe in Jesus Christ as your personal Savior to forgive your sins before a holy, perfect, and just God! For “Whoever believes in Him will have eternal life.”(John 3:15)

Ephesians 2: 8-10 lays it out so clearly: “For by GRACE you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” 

And as we mature in faith and walk with God after our moment of belief, He can guide us...with His wisdom, not ours! Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” (James 4:8)

In this way the message of salvation is so remarkably beautiful; it is simple enough to be grasped by all, but profound enough to entail a lifetime of growth.

So, this is where we are now.

Constantly growing and learning; seeking always to walk closer with the Lord.

It is important to note that we have only been able to do all this by the grace of God. Just as Romans 7:18 says, "For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out." ANY good that is in me or ANY good I may accomplish is the Holy Spirit at work!

If you are wrestling with temptation from the media or the like, and are considering a similar path, I would encourage you to consider Matthew 19:16-30. Jesus was talking specifically about salvation, and that it is not of our doing, but HIS; however, this is also applicable to following God's leading. It is up to us, even after our moment of faith and justification, whether or not we want to follow the Holy Spirit's leading for our lives. But, if we do, and He leads us to a decision like ours, it is not of our own wills that we abstain from such things - it truly is God at work in our lives! Because otherwise, it would be so hard to give up things like Doctor Who or my favorite movies; on the contrary, once we read through the aforementioned verses and talked about it, my husband and I gave up all of our old music, all of our old movies, and ALL with such amazing ease! It has been SO cleansing and rewarding to fill those crevices in our lives with GOD! He has truly transformed us, and if ever we share our testimonies or opinions, it's because we want to see our brothers and sisters in Christ equally set free and richly blessed!

God has done amazing things in this season of our family's life. It is my prayer that you, too, prayerfully consider His will for your life and the lives of your precious little ones as well, and that you are richly blessed by following His leading.


 photo siggycopy.jpg  

If you enjoyed this post, please consider leaving a comment; I’d love to hear from you! 
If you are new here, you might like to subscribe to receive updates direct to your email 
so you don't miss a beat. I have many fun ideas, insights, projects and pins to share!


[1]http://dc.wikia.com/wiki/Speed_Force
[2]http://smallville.wikia.com/wiki/Speed_Force

*I am aware of the violence that is in the Bible, especially the Old Testament. However, this violence is not glorified in human terms; rather, it is God's justice against sin. Furthermore, in 1 Corinthians 10:1-11, Paul is giving record of some of Israel's history and making the case that one reason the Old Testament has been written is for our benefit, that we may learn from those events and avoid such "cravings of evil."

No comments:

Post a Comment